Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 1

History Never Really Says Goodbye: A Critical Review of the Persistence Literature

Leticia Arroyo Abad, Department of Economics, City University of New York & CEPR, USA, , Noel Maurer, Department of International Business, George Washington University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Leticia Arroyo Abad and Noel Maurer (2021), "History Never Really Says Goodbye: A Critical Review of the Persistence Literature", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 1, pp 31-68.

Publication Date: 10 Jun 2021
© 2021 L. A. Abad and N. Maurer
Econometric models,  Treatment modeling,  Elections,  American political development,  Civil conflict,  Comparative political economy,  Comparative politics,  Democracy,  Democratization,  Elections,  Electoral behavior,  Electoral institutions,  Government,  Political economy,  Political history,  Rule of law
Persistenceinstitutionshistoryeconomic and political development


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In this article:
A Short History of Persistence 
Collecting Data, Collecting Results 
Show Me Your Mechanisms 
Compressing and Decompressing History 
A Question of Geography? 


This paper discusses the rise to prominence of persistence studies, defined as studies that use quantitative causal inference to link past events with later economic and political outcomes. Persistence studies have given us many profound insights and have brought history into the mainstream of social science. We argue, however, that some of the persistence literature has overcorrected for past oversights. We select canonical persistence studies to illustrate some common pitfalls in the literature and discuss potential ways around them. These include the failure to recognize institutional change ("anti-persistence"), vague mechanisms, the insufficient use (or misuse) of historical sources and narratives, the compression of history, and a failure to account for the effects of geography. We suggest that the current enthusiasm for persistence studies risks pushing out other valuable work in economic history and historical political economy.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 1 Special Issue - Theory and Method in HPE: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.